Jeanie Buss, co-owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers, never got to pay homage to Magic Johnson since the leader of Showtime retired abruptly in 1991. But she’s grateful to the heavens above that Kobe Bryant is getting a farewell befitting his importance to the city of Los Angeles and the NBA.
It’s officially here. #MambaDay. And Buss is just one of the teary-eyed Lakers fans who is finding it difficult to encapsulate what Bryant has meant to her franchise and the sport of basketball.
“We had that opportunity with Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), but we didn’t have that opportunity with Magic,” Buss told ESPN a day before Bryant’s send-off party. “After Magic retired and we struggled through the mid-’90s, I said to myself, ‘If I’m so fortunate to ever be graced by the presence of such talent, I will do everything that I can to honor that talent.’
And luckily, Buss was graced by the presence of a once-in-a-lifetime talent in Bryant. “It’s (a gift) from the heavens above, and there’s only so many players. They’re few and far between, and I’ve seen two amazing talents play for the Lakers in their prime, bring the team glory, bring the city glory. That was something that I promised the heavens, that I would never take it for granted,” added Buss.
Jeanie Buss: Farewell tour was planned…
According to Jeanie, Kobe Bryant’s yearlong farewell tour was in the works ahead of the Black Mamba’s decision to call time on his career. Bryant announced his retirement in November.
“The goal was to celebrate 20 years of Kobe. To celebrate him and his career and what he’s meant to the fans, to the city, and just to the people who love him. Not just here but all over the world. It gave us an opportunity. When he decided to announce that he was retired, it was kind of like we already had these things in place anyway, and we just made it more about retirement,” revealed the Lakers co-owner.
Prior to tonight’s game against Utah Jazz, the Lakers will do a video tribute for Bryant and follow that up with glittering tributes and timeouts and breaks throughout the 48-minute game. At the end of the game, Bryant will address the crowd in a speech that is likely to break the internet.
Inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio…
Buss referenced Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning speech as an inspiration for the team’s extravagant celebration of Bryant. “He (DiCaprio) made a point to say that he would not take it for granted, and that’s an important thing for people in life. To know the things that are truly special and that don’t happen every day and really kind of remark and honor that. To me, that’s what this year was about.”
Jeanie was quick to thank the rest of the teams and the way they honored Bryant throughout the season.
“It’s fun watching him have to accept it because I don’t think he even realized (how much respect he has garnered). I have to hand it to my fellow teams that they have come up with some really touching, thoughtful tributes. There’s such respect, and that’s an important lesson — honoring your opponent and respecting them even though you want to beat them.”
Mamba Day is just getting started. Keep it here for all the latest. What special surprises will Jeanie Buss have for Kobe Bryant and his fans tonight?
— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) April 13, 2016